Is Being a Good Samaritan An Evolutionary Mandate?


In the course of 24 hours, one friend and one client shared with me stories of what happens when you reach out to a complete stranger in need, even when it means you’ll be late for your next appointment. The first story began a few weeks ago. It is told in its entirety in the following articles, the second link is a slide show done by a photographer for the L.A. Times.

Now, what is telling about this story is, he could have just given this homeless woman and her children money and have been on his way. He went a step further – he wrote to every staff writer at The LA Times until one took interest and it ended up on the front page.

The second story occurred a few days ago at 4th and Wilshire in Santa Monica, Ca. A wealthy woman had just come out of a building from seeing her accountant. Dressed “au currant” down to her Christian Louboutin shoes, she happened to hear frantic cries coming from a bus parked near by. The bus driver was trying to assist a 70 year old man who had fallen badly and had a gash in his leg so deep that he was bleeding profusely. The bus driver had attempted to stop the blood to no avail. My friend immediately instructed him to move the man to the park bench from the bus steps and get his leg elevated. She then reapplied the make shift tourniquet tighter until the paramedics got there. As she recounted the story to me, she joked, ” I guess all those House episodes I watched, have paid off!”

Here are two busy middle aged professional people who took the time to do the right thing. What struck me about this is that others have heralded them as heroes. Yes, it is heroic to choose altruism over self concerns but it made me think, has the bar been lowered so much on our humanity that when we choose to be the good samaritan it is seen as extraordinary? In many tribal cultures, they would look at us strangely for this. In those cultures, reaching out to anyone in need is quite ordinary and reasonable.

In the last chapter of my new book, The LifeQuake Phenomenon I address the idea that once we master the fear of change and learn to adapt more easily to it, we can move into becoming an agent of change. I included a lot of data that suggests that acting altruistically is not only good for your immune system ( which it is), increases dopamine and endorphins ( which it does), but perhaps because of this is actually an evolutionary survival mechanism. Those who concern themselves for others, even when it is an inconvenience or a sacrifice, have the best shot at evolving. Historically, we know that selfish cultures die out but on a purely personal level, if you want to thrive in these difficult times, do something selfless for a complete stranger every day ( however small a gesture) and see your life transform. If we all take this on, the whole world will evolve but more importantly, you will end every day happier, I promise you.

Dr. Toni Galardi is a career coach, columnist, public speaker, and the recent author of The LifeQuake Phenomenon: How to Thrive ( not just survive) in Times of Personal and Global Upheaval

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